Looks like I published my last post too early because I have more to say!
Later, during breakfast, Hari has a happy moment:
“…looking at the woman on the other side of the table and feeling that she might make this exile of his seem a little less like exile. He thought of the other woman he had known a few years ago, but blocked it offer with a determined effort…” (p.88)
This effectively sets up a binary view of Dors and “the other woman” in the readers’ minds. Her character is now primarily defined by her contrast to Hari’s previous lover. Everything she does from here on out in the novel will be within the context of being Hari’s romantic interest.
I’m not surprised by this, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
At least Asimov writes Dors as an intelligent and educated character. Even then, however, Dors’ field of study – history – is almost immediately established as inferior and less useful than that of Hari’s – mathematics. Furthermore, its value is then only in what it can offer in servitude to Hari’s psyschohistory.
The subtext here is that although Dors is educated, her field is lofty and superfluous. It has no real societal value or potential for meaningful contribution. That is, until Hari and his psychohistory come along, suddenly giving purpose to Dors’ academic field; in essence, to her work and education. What a knight-in-shining armour, rescuing her from a life of obscurity and inconsequential study and giving her work merit and significance, am I right? Barf.
Then there’s this lovely exchange, when Hari asks to use her department’s library:
“Would I be able to get permission to use the history library?”
Now it was she who hesitated. “I think that can be arranged. If you work on mathematics programming, you’ll probably be viewed as a quasi-member of the faculty and I could ask for you to be given permission. Only -“
“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you’re a mathematician and you say you know nothing about history. Would you know how to make use of a history library?”
Seldon smiled. “I suppose you use computers very much like those in a mathematics library.”
“We do, but the programming for each speciality has quirks of its own. You don’t know the standard reference book-films, the quick methods of winnowing and skipping. You may be able to find a hyperbolic interval in the dark…”
“You mean hyperbolic integral,” interrupted Seldon softly.
Dors ignored him (p.91)
When Dors thinks Hari might not know something, she has to take special care to protect Hari’s feelings. She first explains she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, then presents her concern about his lack of specialized knowledge using his own words: ‘I’m not saying you don’t anything about history, you said you don’t know anything about history.’ Even then she doesn’t say outright that he doesn’t know how to work the computers, but instead asks him whether he would be able to. This invites him not only to demonstrate his intelligence (“I know things!”) but also for her to explain why it’s only the nuances he wouldn’t know, and that’s through no fault of his own (“each speciality has quirks of its own”).
Then, when she mistakes “hyperbolic integral” for “hyperbolic interval” Hari interrupts her and corrects her without any pretext or explanation or care for her feelings. Just BAM! You’re wrong and I’m smarter than you.
When Hari was at a disadvantage, Dors took care not to hurt his ego and strategically set up the conversation so that he doesn’t come out feeling stupid. Contrastingly, when Dors makes a mistake with a mathematical term, even though Hari knows mathematics is not her area of specialization, he’s right in there with his correction. “Softly” my ass.
I do like that Dors ignores him and keeps going, though. You go, girl.
SO THEN When Dors offers to help him learn by inviting him to join a course she gives on library use, Hari asks for private lessons with a “suggestive tone.” Giggity giggity goo!
She turns him down, but again does so in a way that protects his feelings and ego:
“She did not miss it [his suggestive tone]. “I dare say I could [give you private lessons], but I think you’d be better off with more formal instruction…You will be competing with the other students all through and that will help you learn. Private tutoring will be far less efficient, I assure you” (p.92)
She diffuses the rejection by framing it to be in his interest, rather than as an actual rejection of his advance. This makes the rejection easier for Hari to accept, because it provides him with an ‘out’ which enables him to walk away, pride intact, which is not as embarrassing as an out-right rejection. Dors even appeals to Hari’s competitiveness, offering him an opportunity to take up a challenge, turning this conversation from one where Hari has to accept rejection to one where he is accepting a challenge.
Wow. I see Dors has played Protect-the-Male-Ego before. Well played, Dors, well played indeed.